See previous blog for Days 1-4 of South Downs Way
Arundel Castle taken down at river level.
Day 4 ended at Amberley Station with bowls of soup in the Bridge Inn. 14 and a half miles and 5 and a half hours.
We looked down on Amberley village to the north as we descended to the River Arun, the last river to cross. The castle looked large, imposing and interesting. What a location. Well protected by the river to the west, the Wild Brooks(flood plain) to the north and the Downs to the south. 900 years old and the home of bishops until destroyed in the Civil War. The 60' curtain wall still exists with a 'modern' house built inside which houses the Relais and Chateaux hotel.
Our destination was Arundel which I had always wanted to visit and the Norfolk Arms Hotel.
Chanctonbury Hill. This is a special place. A tree-covered hill fort with breath-taking views all round. Why I didn't take a photo I'm not sure.
This is Christopher's drawing of it which he downloaded onto The Big Draw website, the charity for which he is raising over £2,000. Well Done, Christophe!
We met Mike here who had walked/run out from Amberley Station to meet us and then very kindly drove us into Arundel. He joined us for the night and dinner in the hotel with another friend of mine, Marianne Topham, from West Wittering joining us for dinner too.. Being a visual artist, she was very intrigued by the Big Draw and generously donated to Christopher. Marianne worked with me on my projects at Charles Hammond and painted the most wonderful visuals to illustrate designs to clients.
Day 5 Our views were short-lived. Another misty moisty day! On with the blue condoms.
We did see a kite close too and possibly a kestrel dive into a flock of fieldfares(?) and take one for his breakfast! Very exciting to see a kite so close too and to watch a predator at work. The animal life so far has been disappointing - every beastie staying 'hudden doon' out of the bad weather.
I did think I caught a glimpse of a blue butterfly. Adonis, Chalkhill, small, common or holly blue I couldn't say.
This is exciting! We are crossing Stane Street which took the Romans from Noviomagus (current day Chichester) to London. We'd just passed the sign to Bignor Villa which has some of the finest roman mosaics ever found in England.
Shame we didn't have time to visit.
Apparently this stane street is not to be confused with the stane street that is the A120 and passes Pattiswick on its way to Colchester.
They say 80% of downlands has been lost to agriculture and this rather shows it.
The western end of the South Downs Way is much more wooded with less open downland. In parts, I felt I could be walking anywhere. The Downs magic had gone.
This apparently is Anthony Goldsworthy's chalk ball sculpture.
At the time of the photo we wondered what on earth it was and what it was doing here - some strange meteor from another planet perhaps?
No, just a dotty bit of modern sculpture.
My cousin, Sally Maybury, joined us today. She is our hostess for the night at Chithurst and had met up with Mike at Didling to walk to join us.
Day 5 - Amberley to Didling 16.2 miles 7 hours.
I didn't sleep last night as I stupidly ate a, admittedly, delicious chocolate fondant pudding and the caffeine kept me awake. So I found today a bit of a slog and was glad to see the car at the bottom of Didling Hill!
Day 6 Didling to East Meon Valley 21.2 miles 8 hours
This is the view from Beacon Hill looking south - well worth the climb up but missing out on the loop via Telegraph Hill where I had once stayed with the Gault family who used to own it. We had the pretty village of South Harting to our north and the tempting prospect of Uppark to our south but we pressed on.
Heading for the highest point on the SDW at Butser Hill. No views sadly.
PK has now joined us for the last day and a half - he's taking the photo!!
East Meon Valley with the church steeple centre left tucked under the hill.
It truly is a beautiful valley.
We stopped at the Sustainability Centre for a much needed lunch before setting off down the hill and through Hen Wood to our bed for the night at Drayton with my friend, Philippa Thorp. Wonderful hospitality and a much needed relaxing comfortable night
Beacon Hill - the last major hill before Winchester. Mike, Caterina and Venetia Goodhart joined us here for the last few miles.
As you can see, the weather hasn't improved and sadly denied us the view down on to Winchester.
Our last lunch spot and ritual airing of feet! all within the sound of the Motorcross Bonanza that had accompanied us most of the day, including the mud, shit, rubbish engendered by several thousand spectators and their vehicles.
Outside Winchester Cathedral Day 7 116.5 miles, 267,151 steps, 17,185 calories used.
Eastbourne Esplanade on a sunny Sunday afternoon in September.
What a delightful place! One of the early experiments in urban planning, apparently.
We headed off to the Pier, of course, and found ourselves having tea in the Victorian Tea Rooms at the end of the pier - so music hall!
The Big Sleep put us up for the night and Little Italy fed us our opening meal of the week. 7.30 Monday morning we set off west up the Esplanade towards Beachy Head.
Guess what? No sooner had we left the tarmac at our first finger post than it started to rain and continued all day. A light but persistent rain that kept the collar damp and the feet wet.
Let me introduce my walking companions. On the left is Christopher Goodhart who walked the whole of the SD Way with me. Taking the photo is Mike Luxmoore who joined us at various stages along the way.
Anyone who has visited the Niagara Falls will recognise the Maid in the Mist coveralls. So handy for the rain and, most usefully, extremely light weight.
Luckily, we had more sense than the man in the logo!
It is quite something to walk along Beachy Head and then the Seven Sisters. Quite apart from the roller coast ride, the cliffs are pretty impressive. And to think they are made up of the remains of shells of creatures which lived 75 million years ago during a period so long that sediments hundreds of yards thick were deposited.
Eating our marmalade sandwiches at Burling Gap in the rain!
The rain does give it all an air of mystery. It also meant we had it pretty much to ourselves.
Note the lines of flint sticking out of the chalk. Really weird!
A bit far from home! Exmoor ponies doing a good job keeping the scrub and growth at bay.
Looking back to Cuckmere Haven where we turned north heading for Alfriston via Exceat, West Dean, Friston Forest and Litlington.
The Cuckmere Meanders.
Walking into Alfriston along side the Cuckmere river, 14 miles and 6 hours later, with St Andrews Church in the distance. It is known as the Cathedral of the Downs and it is BIG, built in the form of a greek cross in the 14th century. Next door is the Clergy House, its more famous neighbour, a place I had always wanted to visit. Such a charming garden with the Cuckmere river at its feet. The inside was interesting but a bit soulless as is usual for NT properties. I preferred St Andrews!! Alfriston is touristy as I discovered walking down the narrow main street with a huge tourist bus on my heels. But we had a great welcome at the Ye Olde Smugglers Inn with huge bowls of warming soup and bread.
Carved oak leaf high up in a corner of the hall in the Clergy House, supposedly the origin of the National Trust emblem.
A better photo than I could take!! My little Nokia doesn't like the gloomy weather - too much cloud and not enough light!
Oh dear! Day 2 and not a lot to see!!
We set off at 7 am from Alfriston - no breakfast till 8 am so why hang around? It was our long day - 22 miles and 8.5 hours!
So, as there was nothing to see, we cracked on and made good time, getting to Ditchling in time for tea!
A friend, Ruth Nares, very kindly brought us hot coffee and biscuits at 8 and she and Finbar (the blob on the ground) walked with us for a while.
Where are all those glorious views people spoke of? Hidden in the mist, teasing us with the odd glimmer.
We passed over the second of our rivers, the Ouse, and discovered the Saxon church at Southease. Missed the medieval wall paintings as it was closed for repairs.
Southease is one of many villages folded into the Downs or sitting at the scarp foot which tug at the heart strings. Places that have been here for ever, steeped in history, where many a foot has trod and heads laid to rest.
Not only villages but farms too. This one went by the delicious name of Cricketing Bottom!
An important point on the route - passing from the eastern hemisphere to the western at
0 degrees longitude.
'Here' is Ditchling where Brangwyn lived his later years as a recluse in a house called the Jointure.. The last time I had come across Frank Brangwyn was in Bruges, where he was born, in the Arents House Museum to which he left over 400 works. I had been there with my walking partner, Christopher but neither of us remembered as we stood at the plaque and said to each other, 'Have you seen the museum in Bruges?'!
One of the many dew ponds, supplying drinking water to the animals. Not that dew has much to do with them apparently. It is the rainfall which fills them, with a bit of help from sea mists and fogs of summer. Ha Ha!
They are lined in puddled chalk worked by oxen and flattened by shovel which sets as hard as concrete and is watertight. This one sadly is overgrown but some have been restored, we noted.
A steep climb out of Ditchling ahead! At least there's enough blue to make a pair of sailor's trousers!
Another of these charming flint churches, this time in the village of Pyecombe, which is folded into the Downs, caught between the A23 and A273.
Three rare medieval floor tiles from 13th century.
The one on the right is of a running stag being chased by hounds, To the medieval mind the stag represented Christ's suffering as it is chased and killed by the hounds.
One of 3 lead fonts in Sussex dating from 1170.
It was white-washed in the Civil War to prevent it from being used to make lead bullets! Hence the white residue.
We're in ancient sheep country and this is the famous 'Pycombe Hook', usually atop a shepherd's crook but here used on the tapsel gate which swings at its centre point allowing coffin bearers to walk either side and rest the coffin atop the gate!! Opposite the gate is the old forge which made the Pycombe Hook.
What a charming place! And walkers can avail themselves of the kitchen facilities in the church to make cups of tea and coffee. How nice is that!
Let me introduce to you the Wild Flour Cafe at Saddlescombe! What a haven of peace and tranquility with an excellent cup of tea to boot to accompany our marmalade sanies. After two and a half hours walking that is just what we need. This place is a rare commodity on the South Downs Way so when you meet one it is a joy. No need to scramble down off the escarpment to find rest and refreshment. Bliss!
This is the famous Devil's Dyke. Approaching from the east you would never know it was there. So it comes as a bit of a surprise! It is impressive. The ramparts on the left surround the iron age hill fort of which there is now no visible trace.
I love one of the crazy myths off wikipedia about its origin. The devil dug a trench to allow the sea to flood local churches. He fled when morning approached with his trench unfinished. The last shovel of earth, thrown over his shoulder, landed in the sea, forming the Isle of Wight!!
We may not have had the views but we didn't have the wind which can howl its way across the Downs with a vengeance - note the trees on the right!!
I can imagine it can be bitter up here in the wind so we were lucky.
Day 4 YES - finally we saw the Downs and tasted the magic. Saw the glow of the sun on the sea to the south.
Wow! It made every step worth while. What joy! Why would you go anywhere else but UK? We have such beauty right on our doorstep.
This looks way back to where we had walked from. Impressive eh?
Onwards heading west to Winchester - 3 days to go.
Purfleet is the final destination at the end of Section 24 of the London Loop on the north side of the Thames. On the south side is Erith at the beginning of the first section - see previous blog.
First view of the Thames as I leave Purfleet, looking west to London. Royal Hotel on right - definitely seen better days.
No sooner had I hit the Thames this hove into view. I was thinking Purfleet was a dull little place. This changed everything. This huge brick building is the last remaining of 5 magazines for storing the gunpowder in 18th and 19th centuries. It was here that the ships took on board the gunpowder before setting off to give someone a bashing somewhere - probably Napoleon on the continent. This is magazine 5 holding 460 tons of ammunition.
The troops also embarked here for India on the East India Company ships. The Royal Hotel must have done great business and Purfleet must have been buzzing in those days.
Is this an art installation or a barge graveyard?
This looks east down the Thames to Erith on the south side.
Left the Thames at Rainham and walked up the Ingrebourne Valley through Hornchurch Country Park, more famous as RAF Hornchurch, renowned spitfire station in fighter command in WW11, now resculpted by a massive landfill site and open for all and sundry to enjoy.
Just caught a cup of tea in Upminster in a nice little cafe before walking through Pages Wood to Harolds Wood Park and train home.
36,950 steps, 2,586 calories, 28.39 kilometres, 6 hours - noon to 6 pm.
This is all in preparation for walking the South Downs Way next week.
Section 1 Erith to Bexley was a 10+ mile(4 hours) hike, not very exciting so I am glad I went on my own. I have now completed the southern half of the London Loop.
Walking along the Thames is always invigorating but it was a long hike out of Erith through grotty industrial areas. Then up the River Darent which meanders between the Dartford and Crayford Marshes, edged in reeds, very lifeless except for the odd pair of ducks and a heron. So different to its hayday when barges plied to and fro to Dartford Paper Mills.
The most exciting thing I saw was a kingfisher, a flash or turquoise blue flying up the River Cray. That made everything worth while. I've only ever seen one other on my walks. A good sign as there must be fish.
The path kept deviating away from the Cray passing through suburbia which was dull.
I checked in at Hall Place which turned out to be a fine tudor mansion with huge topiary animals in the garden. Would have liked to stay longer and go round the house - another time.
The last bit was through Churchfield Woods, rather spooky and silent and the path seemed to go on for ever. Glad to reach Bexley.
View east down the Thames to the Queen Elizabeth 2 bridge, with the mouth of the Darent in the foreground.
Reed beds by the River Darent.
repairing the banks of the river Cray with willow
Hall Place, Bexley
The Queen's Beasts in topiary in front of Hall Place - lion, griffin, falcon, bull, yule, greyhound, dragon, unicorn, white horse
Raising funds for The Felix Project and Craftivism Collectif
This is the fifth year of walking along the canals of England.
The Trent and Mersey Canal has been one of the most idyllic - very pretty and unassuming as it winds its way in a wide V south east from Preston Brooks, near the Mersey, and north east to the Derwent River where it joins the Trent River, through four counties - Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
At the time of its opening in 1777 it was a vital link for the potteries, and other trades such as coal and salt, to the Mersey via Bridgewater Canal in the west and the Humber via the Trent in the east, linking coast to coast. It is called the 'Grand Trunk' with good reason and was in use commercially for wellover 150 years.
It was Terry Darlington in his hilarious book, 'Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier' about his narrow boat, the Phyllis May, and his whippet, Jess, who first drew my attention to this particular canal.
Today, it is very popular with the hire boat trade - far more narrow boats than on any of the other canals I've walked in May. The canal is very accessible and links to the Grand union via the River Soar, to the Thames via Coventry and Oxford Canal and to the Severn via the Staffs and Worcester canal.
Part of its charm is its narrowness with most of the locks only taking one 7'x72' boat at a time. The bridges also have names as well as numbers which I hadn't met before and I found charming.
Day 1's excitement was the Anderton Boat Lift which I had read about and was dying to see. What a strange contraption! Needless to say, Victorian. But more importantly brought to life again by the local community in 2002, having ceased to work in 1983. And you can get married here, according to Towpath Talk, UK's No.1 read for waterway users!
It lifts boats between the River Weaver and the canal, a height of 50 feet. Here a tourist boat is taking a trip to Northwich.
Ever thought where your Saxa Salt comes from? Well, it comes from Middlewich, where I spent my first night. 'Wich' indicates salt which has been extracted from the Cheshire plains since roman times. This is the Lion Salt Works, now a museum and visitors' centre. It was a candidate for BBC's Restoration programme in 2004. In august 2016 it was named best UK heritage project by the National Lottery and was winner of a Civic Trust Award. Wished I could have stopped but it didn't coincide with a break time!
Day 2 One of the five tunnels on the Trent and Mersey is the Harecastle Tunnel, 1.75 miles long and unique by civil engineering standards of its day. It is at the highest point of the canal at about 400 ft, just east of Kidsgrove and west of Stoke. It was built by James Brindley, the canal's engineer, and was his crowning glory. Today, it is sadly disused (on the right of the photo). Thomas Telford came along and built a bigger one (on left of photo), now used and carefully supervised by a tunnel keeper. Only one boat goes through at a time taking half and hour! Better that the three hours it took to leg it through Brindley's tunnel!
Legend has it a headless ghost of a young woman is said to haunt the tunnel where she was supposedly murdered. I noticed they didn't print that on my canal map under useful information to know! I am always hoping I will coincide with a boat and hitch a lift through a tunnel but luckily this time there was no boat to be seen!
Middleport Pottery bought by the Prince's Trust for £9 million in 2011. When it started in 1888 it was the best example of a model pottery in the UK. Now the same handcraft techniques are still in use.
I was now into the Potteries, the name given to Stoke-on-Trent and its surrounding area. Josiah Wedgewood, who cut the first sod of the canal in July 1766 at Middleport, used to hike his pots over the hill before the tunnel was cut and complained bitterly of the amount of pots damaged by transport over the appalling roads! So the canal to him must have been a godsend. No wonder he was such an enthusiastic exponent and prime mover in getting the Act to construct the canal passed through parliament. He had just moved his pottery from Burslem, on the hill to the north, down to be canal-side at Etruria and I was about to spend the night in his house, Etruria Hall, courtesy of Best Western.
This is Etruria Hall, home of the Wedgewood Family, and now part of Best Western Moat Hotel. The house was restored for the Garden Festival of 1986, the second of five Garden Festivals celebrating the regeneration of derelict land between the '80s and '90s, when the steelworks were swept away and Etruria Hall was the centrepiece. Sadly, nothing remains of the 18th century interior and it is now used for conferences, meetings etc.
This is the modern Wedgwood factory, built in the '30s at Barlaston to the east of Stoke.
No time to visit the visitor's centre, sadly.
Day 3 and the heat kicked in. By the afternoon, I was down from 5 layers to 3. Easier to wear the clothes than carry them! The weather was going to get hotter and hotter so that evening I dumped a lot of stuff - gloves, socks, buff - cursing the Met for the forecast on the day before I left of cloud, rain on certain days and only 16 degrees!! How wrong could they be. By Day 5 I was waling in 30 degrees heat.
Today the river Trent joined me from the north. I couldn't decide if it was a large stream or a small river. It didn't look very Trent-like. It was also a day of noise. Not surprisingly as I was in the vast Trent plain with railway lines, roads, motorways and airports!
By 6 pm I was reaching for my taxi list with 5 miles still to go to Rugeley, my next stopping place.
Day 4 Hot and the half way point.
Lunch at Alrewas - never did find out how to pronounce that! Such a charming place, with even a bowling green in full swing! It is the southernmost point of the canal and adjacent to the National Memorial Arboretum.
My destination was Burton-on-Trent, home of Bass and Marston's Beers. The monks in the 13th century had discovered the local water had high gypsum content which made a very good ale and thus it continues to this day!
I knew I was in a 'beer' town as I had a bottle opener bolted to the table in my room!
The view from my bedroom - note the tallest building visible - the church tower. How unmodern is that! Delightful.
I loved Burton-0n-Trent - not at all what I expected. My hotel was the Travel Lodge in the ex-Midlands Grain Store no.2. As I walked out across the old weighbridge and off down the Kingfisher trail, I took my hat off to Travel Lodge and their owners for giving me an extremely pleasant and good value experience in a work-horse of a building continuing to be useful, productive and with great charm. Supper, bed and breakfast for about £50, including upgrade to a family room so I had a bath.
I had lunch in a pub at Swarkestone in the Crew and Harpur pub. A blissful hour out of the heat and away fro the sun. A small cairn in the garden attracted my attention. The plaque told me that this was the furthest point south Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his Jacobite Army had reached on 4 September 1745. The might Trent had stopped him! There is also its huge flood plain to the south to negotiate, crossed by an impressive viaduct even older than the bridge.
My goal was Shardlow to which I had been following mile markers for 92 miles, the official end to the Trent and Mersey Canal. It does in fact fun on for a mile and a half to join the confluence of the Derwent and the Trent rivers.
I had wanted to stay here but a Bike Fest, to which I had been listening all day buzzing in my right ear at Castle Donnington, had put paid to that. The nearest hotel was a Best Western in Long Eaton five miles away. I staggered on for a couple of miles beside the Trent, fell into a pub at Sawley and called a cab.
You may think I am a wimp but I was kkkknackered and going nowhere further. Why don't these nice pubs have bedrooms for sore-foot heat-riddled travellers? They rarely do. Too much bother and too many rules and regs.
On the hottest night I found myself inches from the M1 and sleeping in the eaves, in, admittedly, an upgraded room so I could get a bath. About 3am I couldn't stand the noise anymore and closed the windows which barely opened anyway in case we all jumped out driven mad by the noise. Not a good night.
Day 6 First problem - find the head of the river Soar in the pouring rain amongst fields of broad beans and inquisitive cows! Took an hour and a half but find it I did. Headed south into the teeth of a howling gale. Bliss after all that heat!
Caught up with 'Towpath Talk' while seeking refuge from a downpour in a pub at Zouch. I was glad to read that 96.2% of boats held up-to-date licences and 101 boats were in breach of their licence terms and had had them removed! Fascinating stuff!
I was now in Leicestershire and waling through very pretty riverscape with fields of buttercups, assorted wildlife, more pretty villages, the occasional 'big house' with its toes dipping in the river, lots of bird life and busy river activity with gin palaces, canoes, kayaks, the odd narrow boat - quite quite different to my T&M canal. The dynamic of a river is so different, so much more energised and alive.
Day 7 The final lock before Leicester.
Leicester Cathedral was my destination to parley with King Richard. I joined the sung evensong on Sunday afternoon. It was a very moving experience and when the vicar asked me, 'And where do you come from?' I was thrilled to be able to say I had walked 125 miles from Preston Brooks to pay my respects to King Richard. He was impressed! And so was King Richard!
It was a great day for walking. Not too hot, not too cold, with a breeze to refresh. Rosy is my walking companion today. We started from Bexley High Street, a 35 minute train journey from Charing Cross, and were immediately off into country, supposedly a landfill site but clearly now a lush open meadow area full of flowers, happy bees and large juicy brambles, landfill all forgotten and under our feet! Even a field of sunflowers further on.
Our companion river today is the Cray, rising in Orpington and joining the Darent and then the Thames. another crystal clear stream inviting a paddle. It took us through Foots Cray Meadows, passed the Five Arch Bridge, built around 1780 over the weir. On through Foots Cray and passed the Cray Wanderers Football club - one of the first clubs in the country!
We arrived at Sidcup Place where the heavens opened and we retreated for a cup of tea! Nice place, pretty walled garden, huge redwood trees, tennis courts, lots of mothers and children passing the time of day, once somebody's treasured home and now a leisure centre for the local community.
We negotiated crossing the Sidcup bypass and headed off into Scadbury Park Nature Reserve. This is where things took a turn for the worse. The Tfl instructions bore no relation to where we were walking. Finding ourselves heading north (thank God for my little compass) we knew we were lost. No signs visible anywhere, even at a very obvious T junction in the woods where it was only possible to go left or right but which?
Luckily, we heard voices and a young couple walking their dog pointed us in the direction to St Paul's Cray, our next village. So beware this section in the woods - we followed the most trodden path but that is not always the right one!
It would have been nice to find the old moated manor. We found the lodge in the throes of restoration. Also, to enjoy the birch wood without feeling anxious about the route.
We arrived into suburbia, clearly very much in the wrong place. Luckily Rosy could access google maps on her phone which indicated the right direction. We took a brave decision and headed back into the woods further on and luckily managed to rejoin the LL path. Where we went wrong, I've no idea but the lack of signage is not good.
We were now in woods belonging to the National Trust with lots of signs everywhere. We were almost home, arriving at Petts Wood Station just in time to shelter from the mother and father of all rainstorms! The home to Victoria and a nice cup of tea.
Two more sections of the London Loop complete - Hatton Cross to Uxbridge. My walking partner, Cos, and I wrapped it up into one walk of 11 miles.
We're back with the river Crane meandering through Cranford Park - so clear I longed to go in for a paddle.
We first passed huge BA hangers with tails of planes sticking out. We thought it was a bit quiet walking north at the east end of the runway. 'This is alright,' we thought, enjoying the sun and suburban scenery. Suddenly, over the top of our heads, there was a massive rumble followed by the huge underbelly of an enormous aeroplane. It was unbelievable. So close you could have reached out and touched it. Damn, we hadn't taken a picture. we waited for the next one but for some reason they all flew further south! Golly, now I know what they all complain about!
Cranford Park, former home of the Berkeley family, is yet another park where the mansion has long gone - demolished in 1945. But we did find the remains of the 18th century Ha-Ha and the stable block in yummy old red brick, once headquarters of the Berkeley Hunt.
St Dunstan's church is closeby, 16th century and nestling amongst ancient trees, on a site of religion since Saxon times. Oh, the continuity I love.
And guess what? The M4 runs just to the north. Such secrets you'd never know as you hurtle down the tarmacadam.
Now we join the Grand Union Canal and find ourselves walking up the Slough Arm of the Grand Union, a 5-mile stretch built to carry bricks, sand and gravel. When the last commercial traffic stopped in 1960, it was due to be filled in. Strongly opposed locally - well done, the locals - it re-opened in 1975.
We missed the granite obelisk, a coal tax marker, defining the boundary within which tax will be paid on coal brought into London. Apparently, the tax was introduced in 1667 to help rebuild the City after the Great Fire. Damn - how did I miss that one?
What followed was a joy. We ambled through the Colne Valley Regional Park, having left the Slough arm heading west, along the River Colne through beech woods and fields of cows. We even made it into Bucks!
Back with the Grand Union, we were soon in Uxbridge drinking coffee outside the impressive 1930s tube station with its stylised wheel and leaf spring sculptures, stain glass windows and former turning area for trams, now a pedestrian safe zone with our cafe and its delicious coffee and our jaffa cakes left over from the walk.
Two more sections of the London Loop covered - Kingston to Hatton Cross(section 9) and Coulsdon South to Banstead(section 6). Both sections took me by surprise. I found myself walking through green spaces with hardly any roadwork. Section 9 covers Hampton Wick, Bushy Park, Fulwell Park and Hounslow Heath where a man got bitten by an adder the other day. I didn't see any snakes but it is quite a spooky place and I wouldn't want to be walking there on my own. James II camped his army there for military exercises and later it as a haunt of highwaymen and footpads. Now is just the planes coming into Heathrow to bother you!
Bushy Park is lovely, once a favoured royal hunting ground for Henry VIII, with its four deep avenues of lime and chesnut trees planted during the reign of James 1, The Waterhouse Woodland Gardens with the Longford River meandering through and the azaleas casting their scent, are charming. Then surprisingly, you come upon Upper Lodge, once the home of keepers of the Park including Duke of Clarence who left orders on his death for the free admission of the public to the park, now a private home, The lakes have been restored where once the Admiralty tested mines. Such fascinating nuggets of information!
My walking partner, Cos, and I then walked up the River Crane to Hounslow Heath, a pretty and rather wild valley, once a place of much industry including the making of gunpowder and shot at Shot Tower, unfortunately closed, and now a haven for birds and animals.
The bus from Hatton Cross takes you to Feltham Station and the train back into London.
12 miles walked and just under 5 hours taken, including various deviations to look at points of interest, eat sanies, enjoy views etc.
Section 6 took me through lovely suburban Coulsdon bursting with blossom and bird song and then I was off into green lanes, ancient tracks, open fields including a lavender field, with glimpses of London's skyline in the distance. I couldn't believe how rural it was and only a 25 minute train journey away from central London. I hardly walked on any tarmac except to cross a few roads.
Have you heard of Oaks Park? Well, I hadn't until I walked through it. It is the reason why we have the famous horse races, the Oaks and the Derby. It was where Lord Derby lived and on the toss of a coin to name a new race, he won and Sir Charles Bunbury lost. How lucky was that! The Epsom Bunbury doesn't quite have the same ring as the Epsom Derby. The house is no longer except a chalk outline on the ground but the grotto is enchanting and some of the outbuildings remain. Anyway it was a nice place to buy an ice-cream and go to the loo. I then walked across Banstead Downs watching the brimstone, the spotted wood and the peacock butterflies dancing in the sun and caught the train back into London from little Banstead station. I walked 7.5 miles and it took 3 hours, with a bit of dithering about, taking photos, enjoying views etc!!
A green lane, one of several I walked down between Coulsdon and Banstead.
The tall buildings of London in the far distance. Believe it or not, I am in zone 6!
Mayfield Lavender fields, about 10/12 acres I estimated!
Oaks Park Grotto!
Banstead Downs on a spring day.
Dates: 22nd-28th May 2017 Mileage: 125 miles
I start at Dutton Lock on the morning of 22nd and walk to Middlewich.
On Tuesday I walk to Etruria at Stoke-on-Trent and stay the night in the house of Josiah Wedgewood, now a Best Western hotel. Wednesday I walk on to Rugeley and reach Burton-on-Trent by Thursday evening. Friday's destination is Long Eaton, just short of Nottingham, where I turn down the River Soar to Barrow on Soar and Leicester, arriving on Sunday 28th in time for evening song in St Martin's Cathedral and a chat with Richard 111.
If you would like to sponsor me please go to my justgiving page at www.justgiving.com and search kate ainslie williams.
I am walking in aid of the Felix Project and the Craftivist Collective.
The walk was estimated on TFL's downloaded instructions as 10.8 miles. Our fitbit told us 12.5 miles.
We alighted at Banstead Station - in zone 6 so no cost on our freedom passes - turned immediately left at the station and soon found ourselves walking across open ground with trees and the greenery of a golf course. We then struck suburbia which I so love . It always gives me a warm feeling of cosy comfort - everyone in their neat little houses, all different, with established trees and pretty front gardens, sleek cars sitting on neat driveways. I think it stems from living with my aunt and uncle in various corners of suburbia during their army postings.
We were walking into Storm Doris. How she pushed us to a standstill! We tacked across Warren Farm, a surprisingly large open area of field and woodland run by the Woodland Trust Reserve. We sat on the Macdonalds Bench and looked east to Sutton church steeple on the skyline.
My ambition was to see Nonsuch Palace or what remains of it. Sadly, lack of signage took us the wrong way on into Ewell. Oh, for my canals where you can't go wrong! We found ourselves plunged again into suburbia trying to find our way back to the London Loop.
We should have turned right immediately after crossing Warren Farm and not gone straight ahead.
Beware - the downloaded instructions are not clear about whether or not they are directing you to stations at the end of a section and directing you onwards to the next section.
We guessed our way through suburbia and luckily hit the LL at a charming enclave of Ewell Castle School, Church Lane, the old church tower and graveyard and St Mary the Virgin church.
The next section was a surprising delight as we found ourselves walking along the Hogsmill River (named after Mr Hog, a local big cheese at some time) that, if you know your art history which I didn't, is the river which inspired Millais' 'Orphelia' and Holman Hunt's 'The Light of the World' and 'The Hireling Shepherd'. I suppose it was a nice day out for our pre-raphaelites, to potter off to the country for a day's painting!
The river was charming and meandered its way north to join the Thames at Kingston. It was our companion along with all it's horrible litter for the reminder of the walk.
We finally hit Kingston in the dark, having spent 5 instead of the predicted 4 hours. Too late to see the saxon coronation chair but we did walk over the medieval Clattern Bridge, the oldest bridge in Surrey still in use.
Another missed signpost, or was it even there, had sent us hightailing in the wrong direction. Luckily my walking companion had a google app on his phone and we were corrected. If I had been on my own I would have been in trouble as it was dark by then. I do carry a compass but next time I will take the ordnance survey and not rely on TFL's rather dodgy directions.
The next section takes us passed the end of Heathrow - could be exciting but that is for April when daylight hours will be longer.
Looking across Warren Farm east to Sutton
My walking companion, Cos, and Clattern Bridge in Kingston, oldest bridge in Surrey in use.
Ewell Parish Church and old mill cottages
'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace!'
Thanks to John Cleese and Michael Palin.